What Zuma knew
Top-secret documents lay bare the pressure placed on Public Works
The state did not only pay for security upgrades when it spent R248 million on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla compound.
City Press can reveal that the department of public works also used taxpayers’ money to build the following:
» A culvert (tunnel) for cattle;
» New homes for three families who had to be relocated due to the Nkandla development;
» An entrance road to Zuma’s residence; and
» A tuck shop.
Correspondence by consecutive former Public Works ministers Geoff Doidge and Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, and senior Public Works officials, lay bare the frantic rush with which the project was pushed through – and that Zuma was kept abreast of the extent of the upgrades.
It also raises questions about whether Doidge’s abrupt axing by Zuma in October 2010 was related to delays in completing the project.
Doidge is now South Africa’s ambassador to Sri Lanka and declined to comment.
The correspondence and other top-secret documents, including a cost analysis that shows Zuma was supposed to pay R23 million for the construction of two brand-new houses, were leaked to City Press this week.
At the end of last year, Public Works estimated Zuma’s personal contribution to the entire project at R10.6 million.
A sequence of events in October and November 2010 clearly shows the great pressure placed on Public Works to finalise the development.
This led to Doidge himself attending site visits at Nkandla and meeting with building suppliers to fast-track the project.
A flurry of activity was triggered by a progress report prepared by the Durban office of Public Works for “Prestige Project A” – the name of the Nkandla upgrade – on September 8 2010.
The report stated that the aim of the project was to provide “security measures and supporting facilities for the current head of state at his private residence”.
The project was “divided into building works carried out by the owner (Zuma) and works carried out by the state”.
Work on Zuma’s side “had progressed far and was now being held up by the state’s progress, thus necessitating high-level intervention”, the report read.
The Public Works project was divided into three contracts: the main contract for building works, emergency works and a negotiated contract.
The main contract included groundwork, the construction of a private clinic, the construction of a security bunker and control centre, and the building of houses for Zuma’s bodyguards.
The emergency works included the construction of a guard house, tuck shop and toilets; the relocation of two families; and the upgrading of “safe havens” in existing homes.
The negotiated contract was awarded for security installations in Zuma’s new residences, for the relocation of another family and for the construction of “safe havens” between the president’s new houses, “complete with protected walkway”.
At the time, the total cost of construction was estimated to be more than R100 million.
Public Works’ call for “high-level intervention” resulted in Doidge attending an emergency progress meeting at Nkandla on September 23 2010.
He was accompanied by his then director-general, Siviwe Dongwana; Surgeon-General Vejay Ramlakan; other high-level Public Works officials; and contractors, including Minenhle Makhanya, a Durban-based architect who is identified as the “principal agent”.
A Public Works official was instructed not to follow procurement processes, but to “issue a direct order for the supply/manufacture” of bullet-resistant glass on the same day.
Doidge “pointed out that unnecessary delays are not acceptable”.
He also raised his concerns regarding the time left to finish interior design works, without saying for which buildings.
Makhanya pointed out that designers required not less than two weeks for completion of interior designs, “in particular commencement with soft furnishings”.
An official who attended the meeting asked that cellphones not be allowed in future meetings.
Seventeen days later, on October 10 2010, Public Works reported on the progress of the upgrades.
Work was still outstanding on fencing, the helipad, the building of a guardhouse, the relocation of two families, and the construction of tunnels and safe havens.
At the end of that month, Zuma fired Doidge and appointed Mahlangu-Nkabinde in his place.
On November 5 2010, four days after being appointed Public Works minister, Mahlangu-Nkabinde wrote to Zuma, saying it was “prudent” of her to update him on the project.
“The fast-track nature of the project necessitates the daily updating of the project plan and for alternate planning methodologies to be employed in order to meet the target date of November 30 2010,” Mahlangu-Nkabinde wrote.
She proceeded to list all the outstanding projects to Zuma, including a cattle culvert, tuck shop, the relocation of families, a helipad, tunnels and safe havens.
This draws into question Zuma’s attempts in Parliament last week to draw a distinction between his personal expenditure and that of Public Works.
Zuma referred to “security enhancements” paid for by the state and that it was a separate project driven by Public Works.
But Mahlangu-Nkabinde’s letter makes it clear that Zuma was fully aware of the fact that apart from “security measurements”, the state was also paying for other things at his compound.
The tone of her letters is also one of reporting back to Zuma.
She wrote: “Taking the above into consideration, I am pleased to report that all the work for which my department is responsible will be completed by the deadline of November 30 2010 as per the commitment given to you by my predecessor (Doidge).”
Attached to her letter was a progress report outlining all the Nkandla developments and the percentages completed.
Public Works’ acting director-general, Mandisa Fatyela-Lindie, said it was premature to respond on specific aspects of the project.
Her department is currently investigating the costs incurred and the integrity of the procurement process.
Other Nkandlagate investigations are being conducted by the Public Protector and AuditorGeneral.
“This is the first time that our department has implemented this kind of initiative on a prestige project. We want the team to do a thorough investigation …The department, together with the relevant government agencies, will study the findings and take whatever appropriate actions to deal with any wrongdoers.”
She said the findings should be available within the next two to three weeks.
- Adriaan Basson